Our Vision for Growth: a world class institute for Food, Nutrition and Health—from genes to populations
To become the preeminent institute in North America improving health through research, teaching, and leadership in human nutrition from genes to populations
To use nutrition research, education and leadership as a key driver for enhancing the health, wellness and prosperity of individuals and populations
Canadians face a new epidemic—chronic disease.
Currently, one in three Canadians has a chronic disease. The implication for our healthcare system is immense. Diabetes and heart disease alone account for nearly 70 per cent of Ontario’s healthcare budget and the pattern is similar across the country.
Meanwhile, healthcare costs continue to rise. Economists project that healthcare will consume 80 per cent of the Ontario provincial budget by 2030 if significant action is not taken.
If these trends continue, our healthcare system may well become unsustainable, or compromise funding for infrastructure, education and other critical social programs.
We must shift our focus from treatment to prevention and from illness to wellness. Nutrition offers a critical tool to prevent, delay and treat chronic diseases and to stem the skyrocketing healthcare costs of those that are diet and obesity-related, such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease. The need to advance nutrition research and its application has never been greater.
Demonstrated leadership in nutritional sciences
For more than 80 years, the Department of Nutritional Sciences of the University of Toronto has been at the forefront of knowledge generation and application that has meaningfully and measurably enhanced the health, wellness and prosperity of Canadians and populations around the globe.
A recognized leader in nutritional sciences, the Department’s extensive research activities span from basic science to clinical applications to population health. This range—from genes to populations—represents the ideal translational model of research and has led to important discoveries and application of research across the world. The Department’s long history of contributions include Pablum, a nutrient-fortified baby food that decreased the high incidence of rickets and iron deficiency worldwide, and Sprinkles, a home-fortification approach to combat iron-deficiency anaemia that has decreased irreversible developmental deficits in children in resource-poor areas of the world.
Today, the Department boasts 50 highly accomplished faculty members who are recognized as global leaders in nutrition. Its reputation among students places it among the most desirable schools in North America and it plays a pivotal role in educating academia, physicians, health professionals, industry, government and the public on nutrition issues.
Our vision—a world-class Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health
With this strategic plan, the Department takes a major step forward, embracing a bold new vision that will transform the Department into a world-class Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health that integrates nutrition research, education and training, clinical investigation and public policy.
The Institute will generate leading-edge nutrition research, foster educational excellence and provide national and international leadership in knowledge translation. It will bring together basic scientists, clinical investigators and population health experts to work together and share their complementary expertise in consumer behaviour, nutrition, genetics, communication and health policy.
The Department of Nutritional Sciences is uniquely positioned to take on this leadership role. It is one of the few departments of nutrition in North America to be located within a Faculty of Medicine. This, together with its close linkages with UofT’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, allows the Department to fully explore the relationships between nutrition and human health and disease, and to influence clinical practice and public health programs. It also creates unique opportunities for collaboration with the highest concentration of university-affiliated hospitals, clinicians and health researchers in North America.
Toronto is an ideal environment for nutrition research. It is home to the largest research and development (R&D) hub in Canada and the second largest food cluster in North America.
An era of growth and transformation
Achieving this vision will require significant growth and transformation.
The Department’s current home, built in 1927, does not provide the necessary space, structural, or scientific equipment capacity to support cutting-edge research. The Department must also make the transition from a Department to an Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health in order to capture a full breadth of research enterprise under one roof. This increase in research capacity will help to drive targeted research results that have a major impact on health.
Over the next five years, the Department will achieve its vision through three key strategies:
Strategy 1. Optimize our Research Enterprise
Our vision can only be attained if we restructure the way we do research. To succeed as an Institute that achieves major health, social and economic impacts, we will need to focus and better coordinate our efforts to emphasize our carefully selected research platforms:
- Healthy human development and aging
- Nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition
- Chronic disease prevention and treatment
- Nutrition, food and public policy
These focused areas of research will allow us to enhance faculty recruitment, expand academic programs, develop new funding sources and build more strategic partnerships.
Strategy 2. Secure the Best People and Partnerships
The historic success of the Department is founded on the high quality of its faculty, students and partners, including neighbouring hospitals, industry players and other research institutions. As we expand to a world-class Institute, this strategy will ensure we pursue a highly disciplined recruitment and retention process for our faculty, staff and students, and that we explore highly strategic value-based partnerships and alliances as we expand our network.
Strategy 3. Cement our Foundations for Growth
Our third strategy focuses on building the right set of physical, financial and operational infrastructures to enable our vision for growth. The expansion to state-of-the-art facilities is central to this strategy as our current location does not provide the necessary infrastructure or capacity to support the Department’s ambitious research agenda.
To achieve our three strategies we intend to complete eight objectives over the next five years. Detailed action plans for each of these objectives are defined in our plan, including measures for tracking progress and desired outcomes for success. Key personnel will be identified as champions for each.
Optimize our Research Enterprise
1. Focus and prioritize research platforms
|Secure the Best People & Partnerships||
3. Identify and build critical mass of strategic partnerships
|Cement Our Foundations for Growth Capacity (and Innovation)||
6. Expand to state-of-the-art facilities
8. Enhance supporting processes for growth
This strategic plan document presents our perspective on the current environment, our vision for the future and a roadmap to move us forward. Executing our strategic plan will require a collective effort from members of the Department as well as resources, support and leadership from the University.
We recognize that our vision for a world-class Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health may take more than five years to achieve. However, we believe our plan sets the stage for pushing the quality and application of nutrition research to new heights and, in turn, provides value to our faculty, students, University, partners, government and to populations around the world.
 2007 Report on Ontario’s Health System. Ontario Quality Health Council, 2007.
 Health promotion, chronic disease prevention and injury prevention. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, 2010
 Charting a Path to Sustainable Health Care in Ontario. TD Bank Financial Group, 2010.
 The study of how food and diet interact with specific genes in the body to alter the risk of certain diseases.